We Are All French Now

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on March 29, 2009

OK, we Americans need to face it. The French were right. We were wrong. Yes, this is a provocation but there’s a lot of truth to it. Let’s go down the list:


The Iraq War: Yep, the French said there was no real reason, no weapons of mass destruction, no Al Queda—and they were right.

Neoliberal free market capitalism. Yep, the French wanted more regulation and less globalization and the US wanted no regulation and total globalization. The resulting financial/economic disaster shows—the French were right. National Champions? The US government is now picking corporations and banks it wants to survive. The French always did.

Global Warming/ Cap and Trade. Yes, the French were for it. US against. Now, the US is racing to catch up. So…the French were right.

Health Care. The US insurance-dominated system costs twice as much as France’s with poorer health outcomes. The French public/private health care system is a better model. Hey, doctors actually come to your house in France. Yep, the French were right.

Wine. The French always said wine was good for you. The US had to spend billions in scientific research to prove that wine is good for your heart. So…the French were right. I’m waiting for the results on cheese.

Food. The French have always been into local, seasonal food. Americans are just beginning to “get it.” France has always had artisanal cheeses, breads, pates, etc. Yep, Americans are just getting into it. So…the French were right.

Sure, the French still need lessons in making entrepreneurs who take risk (all the young French hotshots leave for New York and London). And the very idea of electing a black man to lead France is still shocking. France has a way to go in race relations.

But, all in all, Americans would do well to remember that we really do love French Fries. And we are all French now.

Reader Comments

jean louis Frechin

March 29, 2009 8:54 PM

Hello Bruce

I read your blog from Paris and i am really a Fan. I am digital design and innovation professor at ENSCI les Ateliers (french national school fot adavanced studies in design) and owner of Nodesign design studio. Thanks for your funny post. Becarefull with french "cliché".
You could say that US have great universities, France ? , You could say that US know and got the energy to re-invent themself, France not. Some of our students are in US (sillicon valley) companies. Some of them are ICT world leader. France haven't.
But you're right, we've got the best cheese...You are welcome to ENSCI when you come in Paris

Best

jean louis Frechin

Ralf Beuker

March 30, 2009 12:38 AM

Bruce, may I remind you that while you are right as it comes to Wine, Food & Healthcare it has been the former German Kanzler Gerhard Schröder who led the EU (and also France) on the question whether the Iraq war was justified; pretty much the same counts for global warming ... Maybe Sarkozy is far better in marketing these efforts these days?

MShears

March 30, 2009 7:40 PM

Great post Bruce. But whats more telling are the motivations (well, more for international relations than food and wine). The French are masters at geopolitics and acting upon real national interest - the Americans, while no neophytes, are largely beholden to political action committees and the like, effectively the national interest dictated by the vocal few.

larrydalooza

March 30, 2009 8:24 PM

Every government should be forced to have elected officials. Iraq should have only been the start.

Jay Bhattacharjee

March 31, 2009 5:30 PM

Why does it take so long for your journal to recognise home truths ? After all, Paul Krugman and many other well-known American analysts have written on these issues for many years. It is just that corporate America and the politcal establishment in the Bush years refused to see reality. It was also a question of their amour propre. And possibly, a touch of pure racist jingoism as far as the French are concerned.It is funny how the WASPS on both sides of the Atlantic have a desperate inferiority complex vis-a-vis the French. The English mind-set one can understand - after all, the French conquered their island in 1066 and brought about a sea-change in that country. But the American animosity towards Lafayette's home-land ?

Free one no more.

April 1, 2009 2:39 AM

Ha, ha what garbage. Cap-N-Trade, is nothing more than a sin tax. The only part of our economy failing is the part the libs were or are part of. Iraq is a clearing house for the fanatics and we had the longest period of no attacks in this country in a long time, not to mention Libya turned over its WMD(gee the pinkos love to forget about that one) Your feel good, tax the hell out of everything then cry when your marxist theory fails will be fun to watch-a la New York and California.

Bernard

April 1, 2009 8:07 AM

Bruce, you are right on most issues, including the one about the young French "entrepreneurs" not taking enough risk...
But about the race issue i compeltely desagree. It's true that there are many racial tension in France (like in the US or anywhere else in the world), but the idea of having a colored person leading teh country is largely conceived by most French people. Just remember how Obama was supported by French public opinion during the last campaign.

PM

April 1, 2009 8:35 AM

France did not oppose the Iraq invasion on the grounds of "no WMD," they opposed the invasion for several reasons:

1. It would damage cushy, unethical if not illegal French contracts in Iraq.

2. France had nothing to "offer" to an invasion. It has no force projection capacity remaining, and could not afford to be seen as a peer of the smaller nations who participated, or too heavily reliant on or subordinate to the U.S. This one fact - that France simply had nothing to give - steered her into opposing behavior, feigning to take the "high ground." To wit:

3. France desired to use the invasion to coalesce support for its position as a counter-American leader and leverage that into a stronger-organized and connected EU. It saw a rare opportunity to accomplish many otherwise very long-term (if not unreachable) goals by playing on public sentiment to create a true political and legal "one" of the EU.

It was a perfect storm for French geopolitical strategy. It was not done out of high-mindedness, it certainly was not done out of lack of evidence (French intelligence was on board with the idea that WMD existed, as were most intelligence agencies). France opposed the invasion purely out of strategic self-interest and the idea of a more glorious EU able to rise in counter to the U.S. for the first time - the realization of the "soft power" superpower of which they have long dreamed.

Of course, it didn't turn out that way, but in the end it makes little difference as - again - they had nothing to contribute in the first place, and it's a net win for them to have "opposed" the invasion, saved a lot of face on the hard power front, and gained on the soft power front.

Tocquevil

April 1, 2009 9:58 PM

PM,

Whether France had a hidden agenda might be subject to debate. Still, she opposed the invasion on the grounds of "no WMD", just as USA advocated it on the grounds of "WMD". We all know too well that, in the case of USA and UK, there WAS an hidden agenda, since their Secret Services have been coerced to find "proofs" of WMDs.

Plus, the "reasons" you list are pure speculations, particularly considering that France did join the coalition for the first Iraq war, and did join the coalition for the Afghanistan war.

You are probably just a sore loser.

Marie Claude

April 2, 2009 4:06 AM

The US government is now picking corporations and banks it wants to survive. The French always did

only when our money was in danger, but some socialist leader, ie Mitterand, by conviction

Global Warming/ Cap and Trade. Yes, the French were for it.

check the result for the greens in the last presidential election : altogether Sure, the French still need lessons in making entrepreneurs who take risk (all the young French hotshots leave for New York and London). And the very idea of electing a black man to lead France is still shocking. France has a way to go in race relations.

some of the biggest Cies in the world have a frenchman at the head, the French seem to take less risks, because the banks don't let them like in your country, and see the results, chaos in the US !

the youngs don't leave France for goods, some are abroad for probation works, some for improving a foreign language, some are recruited for their skills by Companies, (mostly computoring business), some look for a job and to definitly settle, but more at the end of the last millenarium and the beginning of this one.

I wouln't say that the attraction is still stimulating

Anyway, your article is funny, take care, your pain will soon disappear :lol:
_________________________________

PM, I have plenty of true sources that can contradict your dires, umm, not the same that created the "Plame" case naturally, if you see what I mean...

Mike

April 2, 2009 11:28 AM

PM > If France did not have anything to give for the War in Iraq, why did America begged so hard for it to come along? Maybe it was more because like millions of people across the world, the French did not see the purpose and could clearly see that all the threats mentioned by Bush to justify the war were pure lies conceived to fool public opinions, you should know, he admitted it publicly. France, like many countries just did not want to give credibility to this masquerade invasion that cost the lives of so many innocents and brought chaos and daily terror to Iraq.

But maybe you can explain your claims about the useless French army to the French people who lost family members in Afghanistan after more French troops were sent to help America.

And just to refresh your memory, the French Army coordinated most of NATO military operations in Kosovo even though it is not part of NATO.

Dedef

April 2, 2009 9:53 PM

The French Were Right
By Paul Starobin, National Journal
© National Journal Group Inc.
Friday, Nov. 7, 2003

http://www.nationaljournal.com/about/njweekly/stories/2003/1107nj1.htm

Let's just say this at the start, since this is the beginning, not the end, of the discussion about how to grapple with the post-9/11 world (and because it's the grown-up, big-man thing to do): The French were right. Let's say it again: The French -- yes, those "cheese-eatin' surrender monkeys," as their detractors in the United States so pungently called them -- were right.

Jacques Chirac and his camp, shaped by the Algerian war and their own recent lessons in fighting terrorism, correctly predicted the consequences of invading Iraq.

"Be careful!" That was the exclamation-point warning French President Jacques Rene Chirac sent to "my American friends" in a March 16 interview on CNN, just before the Pentagon began its invasion of Iraq. "Think twice before you do something which is not necessary and may be very dangerous,"

ETC...

Christophe

April 6, 2009 10:26 PM

Bruce,

Could you please send your article to:

Monsieur le Président de la République
Palais de l'Elysée
55, rue du faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008 Paris

Maybe he'll listen to you and will then try to be a little more... French ;-)

Believe it or not, but here, in France, we sometimes miss Jacques Chirac...

Best

Christophe

koz

April 7, 2009 11:29 AM

Well... we love you too.

Considering the race, and even if we, French, have also to deal with racism, I do not remember official segregation in metropolitan France.

Kerbec

April 8, 2009 10:23 AM

You have some wrong data. French officials belived there were AMD in Irak. They only said that there was no need to invade.

Al Zawahiri, a member of Al Qaida, was wagging a guerilla war in north-eastern Irak against Kurdish people at the time of the invasion. Afterwards he was to become the emir of Al Qaida in Irak till the moment that he was killed by American forces.

The reasons of invading Irak are clear for everybody: it was the only way to be sure that the principal ennemies of America in the Middle Est were not to make an alliance : Saddam and Bin Laden.

Maybe you are right about wine, French research mantains that wine is good to the heart but more recent research says wine gives cancer.

About local seasonal food, I live in France and I can assure you that you can happily buy cheap good produce from all over the world in your supermarket. Surely you can buy local food if you are rich enough at the weekly market too. But you have to be very rich.

Maybe french medical services are good. But if you pay forcibly 14 % or your income to have medical services you can have good services in America as well.

Magic from Paris

April 8, 2009 5:26 PM

Viewed from France, I agree with PM on his 3rd issue : the will to appear as a counter-American leader... wich is a internal political booster.

Other reason was : try to settle a democracy in a foreign country by invading it is just dumb.

Cranker

April 10, 2009 6:25 PM

The health care issue is a mystery. It's true that , per capita, Americans spend twice as much on health care than the French. Yet the French have better care, and for everyone whereas 50 million Americans do without and many othgers have to mortgage their home if they get really really sick.

So how do the French give better care to everyone for half the priceit costs Americans to give care only to some. Would really like an explanation of why....

haiker

April 14, 2009 4:59 PM

Cranker:

How? Easy: our health care system is, sorry, *was* not after making profit, just improving health. Private actors were under strong regulation, preemptive health policy was promoted, etc.

Unfortunatly, it's changing fast, as our current government is right now reshaping it after the US one, yes that one americans don't want anymore. And they're doing it only because their ideology is "free market can do anything better, cheaper, *while* profitable".

Tell us again how this ideology turned out for your country, and will turned out for our sooner than later. Please.

TKM

July 15, 2009 4:26 PM

PM,

As an expat American living in Paris, your comments strike me as splashy, provocative (as you aver), and while containing some truth are a bit adrift from their foundations.

Many of the comments above add clarity and even refute statements made in your article.

That said ... there is much to be learned by observing and listening to the French. The comment made by the gentleman about US policy being dictated by PACs and people being insufferably in love with themselves (think: Rove, Limbaugh, other screechy conservatives) is right on, from where I sit.

Your article will be great fodder at Parisian dinner parties. Thanks for having the stones to run it!

Larry Willis

December 30, 2009 5:17 PM

The Statue of Liberty...Why didn't any of the "Freedom Fries" people want to send it back?

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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